Kevin McGowan speaks at the NAIOP I.CON East Conference

Insights from the I.CON East Panel on Regional Labor Market Trends

Date: June 6, 2024

Event: I.CON East in Jersey City, New Jersey

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the I.CON East conference in Jersey City. This event brought together industry experts to dissect the labor market trends impacting the Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey regions. It was an excellent platform to share insights and strategies for navigating the current labor landscape.

The War for Talent

David Hickey from Hickey Associates highlighted a critical issue: labor availability now trumps labor costs as a top concern for employers. Our region’s low unemployment rates, which mirror the national average, are both a blessing and a challenge. While it signifies economic health, it also means that finding the right talent can be an uphill battle. The slower growth of our labor pool compared to other regions like the Carolinas adds another layer of complexity.

Dynamic Workforce Trends

One persistent trend is the high job quit rates. Even though we’ve seen a reduction since the peak during the Great Recession, these rates remain above historical levels. Factors such as the availability and cost of childcare—ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 annually—play a significant role. Reliable transportation, spousal employment, and preferences for clean manufacturing environments also weigh heavily on workers’ decisions.

Employer Strategies to Overcome Talent Shortages

I emphasized the importance of innovative approaches to these challenges. For instance, industrial parks that include amenities like childcare centers with dedicated slots for employees can significantly enhance workforce attraction and retention. Upskilling and reskilling employees, investing in automation, and offering more flexible roles are other crucial strategies. Despite common misconceptions, automation often increases the demand for workers to service these advanced facilities, as Michael Larson from InSite Real Estate, LLC, pointed out.

The Logistics Workforce in East Pennsylvania/New Jersey

The logistics sector is a cornerstone of our regional economy. Job categories within this sector, such as truck drivers and material movers, are expected to see steady growth. However, we face challenges related to the mismatch between available resident workers and regional job opportunities. Addressing this through targeted recruitment and training programs is essential.

Benchmarking and Regional Comparisons

During the discussion, I noted that benchmarking our region against other emerging logistics hubs is vital. The Virginia Beach area, for example, has strong labor availability but lacks the necessary infrastructure to meet high demand. I highlighted that regions like Lehigh Valley are particularly attractive due to their proximity to key transport routes and more straightforward facility entitlement processes.

The Value of Talent in Logistics

Making facilities attractive to potential employees is crucial. Simple amenities like air conditioning can significantly improve the working environment, which is especially important in our sector. Additionally, advocating for better local transportation options can make a substantial difference. When evaluating new locations, businesses should consider zoning, utilities, power availability, and most importantly, the local workforce’s growth potential.


The panel at I.CON East underscored the complexity of our current labor market and the need for innovative strategies to attract and retain talent. By addressing the multifaceted needs of the workforce and leveraging advanced tools for labor market analysis, we can position our region for continued growth and success.

Speaking at this event was a rewarding experience, and I look forward to continuing these important conversations to help navigate the evolving labor market landscape.

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McGowan Corporate Real Estate Advisors